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Mental health in Manchester: study into hidden pandemic reveals why people don’t ask for help and support

Research shared exclusively with ManchesterWorld has shed light on why too many people in the city-region are struggling alone.

Greater Manchester residents are suffering in silence with mental health problems, and new research has shed light on to why.

The results of a comprehensive survey shared exclusively with ManchesterWorld through our sister title NationalWorld has been looking at the reasons people who are struggling with mental illnesses do not reach out for help.

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Hundreds of people responded to the researchers, who worked on an international study into the hidden mental health pandemic which was partly funded by the UK Government.

With official figures showing rates of depression doubling in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is hoped the research will help to answer an increasingly important question of why people are sometimes reluctant to seek help.

What does the data show for Greater Manchester?

Hundreds of Greater Manchester respondents took part in the study by the international non-profit Surgo Ventures, which spoke to more than 17,000 people across the UK.

In total there were 530 responses in Greater Manchester, a sample size which was weighted.

Shockingly, half of them met the threshold that warranted further clinical assessment for either anxiety or depression.

Eating disorders are complex and severe mental health conditions (image: Adobe)

Furthermore, almost a quarter of respondents (24%) did not even know that depression and anxiety are both classed as illnesses.

In both cases these figures are above the national average.

In addition, 18% of respondents in the city-region told the researchers they would delay more than six months, or never seek care, if they were to face mental health difficulties that significantly affected their day-to-day functioning in the future.

The most commonly-identified barrier to seeking help was feeling embarrassed or ashamed.

Some 24% of respondents gave this as a reason that would stop or discourage them from looking for care for their mental health.

What did the survey show nationwide?

Nationally the survey revealed one in three respondents showed signs of possible depression or anxiety.

And one in five of those asked told the researchers they would delay seeking professional care by at least six months;

Reasons for not seeking help varied depending on the towns or cities people lived in.

For instance, concerns about the financial costs of mental illness were more common in the home counties, while people in Yorkshire were more likely to dislike opening up about their feelings.

The findings have been used to build the UK Mental Health Data Explorer, designed to help health chiefs in towns and cities across the country tackle the specific barriers to care in their own areas, from stigma to practical worries.

What did the survey team say?

Surgo Ventures’ CEO and co-founder, Dr Sema K Sgaier, said: “The fact that one in five people would suffer silently with mental health difficulties is a shocking reflection of barriers to mental health care in the UK.

“What also stood out was how widely the reasons varied from community to community.

“Health leaders who want to encourage people to seek care will need to pursue tailored, hyper-local strategies for it to work.

“And our data can help provide these leaders with a roadmap on what to do in their communities.”

What have the authorities said?

A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said: “We will be launching a national conversation to inform the development of a new long term Mental Health Strategy later this year.

“This kind of research will help inform what actions we should take to ensure people who need support can, and do, access it.

“Mental health services are there for those who need them, so if you need support or are concerned about someone else, please reach out for help.”

What have other charities and health professionals said?

Vicki Nash, head of policy at the mental health charity Mind, said: “The pandemic has taken a great toll on the mental health of the nation, with many people experiencing a worsening of pre-existing mental health problems while others are struggling with their mental health for the first time.

"What is needed urgently is a cross-Government plan to tackle the mental health backlog, alongside additional funding to support people experiencing mental health problems earlier on before they reach crisis point and treatment becomes both more intensive and expensive.”

Subodh Dave, Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said the Covid-19 pandemic had led to “unprecedented demand on mental health services”.

He said it was “essential to work collaboratively across society to remove the stigma for those struggling with their mental health so that they can come forward when they need support”.

What support is out there for people struggling with their mental health?

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this story or are worried about your own or someone else’s mental health, there are charities and organisations out there.

Help or advice could be available by calling the Mind infoline on 0300 123 3393 or emailing [email protected]

Samaritans are available to listen at any time on 116 123.

And the Rethink Mental Illness advice line can be reached on 0808 801 0525 or via its web chat service.